Oops. Wrong Cover for Rolling Stone?

July 23, 2013


It took me days to get a look at the Rolling Stone article from Jeff Goodell, who joined Dark Snow Project for several days in late June. The turnaround was lightning quick for a magazine piece – the issue hit newstands last week.
Unfortunately, not all newstands.
Due to negative reactions around the magazine’s cover shot of the surviving Boston bomber, a number of retailers will not stock this issue.  Makes it pretty tough to find – so I had to subscribe to be able to get behind the paywall when the online version finally came out the other day.

bomberJeff is a great writer, and as a  researcher who’s already done heavy lifting on coal and climate change, a great choice to fill the spot vacated when Bill Mckibben had to drop out of the trip at the last minute. Jeff flew to Kangerlussuaq with us, where we found out we had transport problems – then up to Ilulisat, where we finagled an Air Greenland helo that took us on our first trip  to the ice sheet, along the Ilulisat glacier calving wall.

Which makes it all the more frustrating that Goodell’s great article got lost in the rather overblown kerfuffle over the cover photo.

Redding Record-Searchlight blog:

I am a subscriber to Rolling Stone and now possess one of the most hated issues of a magazine ever published in the history of America. I love Boston. It is one of my favorite cities in the U.S. and out of respect to her citizens who have suffered so much, maybe I should burn this issue. But I’m not going to.

Because inside this particular magazine with the Boston Marathon Bomber’s picture on the cover is an article about Jason Box, a Greenland ice climatologist who has had twenty-four expeditions to Greenland in the last twenty years and “spent more than 1 year camping on the inland ice.”

Box has also “Installed and maintained a network of more than 20 automatic weather stations on Greenland’s inland ice in expeditions spanning 1994-2008.”

Calling him “The Ice Maverick,” Rolling Stone‘s Jeff Goodell wrote, “Greenland’s ice sheets are melting faster than anyone predicted. Climatologist Jason Box has a radical theory why — and even more radical ideas about upending the global warming science establishment.”

“25 June, 2012, on his way for his 23rd Greenland expedition, sitting in New York’s Laguardia airport terminal, writing a meltfactor.org blog on Greenland’s declining reflectivity (a.k.a albedo), Box beheld the crowded waiting area with crowds glued to TV monitors that blared news about record setting Colorado wilderness. Box’s research had linked Greenland’s albedo decline with the warming of the past decade, but was wilderness soot making the ice even darker?

“From the airport, Box rang snow optics expert Dr. Tom Painter to ask if snow surface samples could identify wilderness soot and its source (Colorado? Siberia? Arctic Canada?) and whether it was possible to discriminate between industrial and wilderness soot. Painter: ‘YES’.”

The Dark Snow Project stems from Box’s “unified theory” of glaciology. He wondered if “tundra fires in Canada, massive wildfires in Colorado, and pollution from coal-fired power plants in Europe and China had sent an unexpectedly thick layer of soot over the Arctic region last summer, which settled onto Greenland’s vast frozen interior, increasing the amount of sunlight the snow and ice absorbed, which in turn accelerated the melting.”

“According to NASA, Greenland and Antarctica are losing three times as much ice each year as they did in the 1990s. Summer sea-ice cover is half as big as it was from 1979 to 2000 and many scientists are predicting an ice-free Arctic by the end of the decade.”

And nowhere on the planet is the ice melting faster than it is in the Arctic. Box said, “I like ice because it is nature’s thermometer. It’s not political. As the world heats up, the ice melts. It’s very simple. It’s the kind of science that everyone can understand.” Everyone who wants to understand, that is.

“To Box, the icy island is a perfect laboratory to understand what is happening as CO2 levels rise and the planet warms up.” The forty-year old scientist who made his first expedition to Greenland when he was only 20 years old said, “We are heading into uncharted terrain. We are creating a different climate than the Earth has ever seen before.”


WGBH reports the issue is now “selling like hotcakes on eBay.”

Matt Taibbi explains Rolling Stone’s point of view on the controversy, pointing out that no one complained when the New York Times ran the same photo on their front page.

20 Responses to “Oops. Wrong Cover for Rolling Stone?”

  1. omnologos Says:

    soot? I’ve been called a denier for suggesting that in the past (not here).

    IMHO soot is top spot for melting ice. Nice to see somebody else thinking the same.

  2. mbrysonb Says:

    You claim that we should cut soot emissions instead of cutting CO2. But soot has a very short life span at the surface: reducing it will provide a one-time increase in albedo, while CO2 continues to add up, making the atmosphere more opaque to IR radiation, it persists for thousands of years, and the warming it causes will continue the reduction of albedo in northern springs and summer. The point is, we can clean up the soot problem any time — now would be good, but so would 10 years from now. But the only practical way to reduce future CO2 levels is to reduce emissions steadily, starting as soon as possible. So your use of ‘instead’ makes no sense.

  3. MorinMoss Says:

    You’re not alone in calling for the removal of soot and I’m surprised that you’d be labeled a denier for it, especially since the IPCC tried to quantify the radiative forcing of black carbon in 2007.
    I note that the post you linked was from 2008 but there are zero comments attached to it so I presume you made the same statement elsewhere.

    • omnologos Says:

      MorinMoss – I have posted also some strong words a couple of years later, when the EU Commission decided emission mitigation was too important to get distracted on 4,000 humans dying every day because of soot (so much for soot abatement not being an “instead” of CO2 emissions). Let me quote myself:

      Policy-wise, the reduction of black carbon emissions is extremely easy: there is no “black carbon skeptic”, no “black carbon is natural” blog, no “alternative consensus on black carbon” international conference. No fossil-fuel-industry lobbyst has ever pushed against limiting black carbon emissions, and anybody and everybody can be easily convinced that there is anything wrong in freeing up in the atmosphere of notoriously unhealthy particulates.

      Black carbon should be the “motherhood and apple pie” of environmental policy, and legislation and aid organization and distribution regarding the reduction in black carbon emissions could be in place in weeks..

      Unfortunately the AGW bandwagon has been hijacked long ago by people who don’t care about the environment or other people, and simply try to impose a generalised pauperism. As mentioned by Robert in another thread, there are unhealthy calls for smaller housing instead of simply better one and especially with less unnecessary waste of energy.

      • MorinMoss Says:

        I’m not clear how you justify that AGW proponents don’t care about the effects of soot, especially on the developed world.

        The largest single contributor worldwide, slightly more than 40% is from burning forests and grasslands, something concerned environmentalists have spoken against for decades.

        And, in the US, power plants have only ever grudgingly given in to the rules imposed by the EPA and have worked behind secretly and openly to delay or defang those regulations.

        Burning diesel, counting both transport and industry, is about 25% – again, the West has done a lot in the past decade to clean up diesel fuel.

        Nearly as much is from residential burning of biomass in the developing world; I’m at a loss as to what can be done here.
        Free or subsidized nuclear? You’d have to build a lot of power lines in remote places in China and India.
        More efficient stoves? They need to cook and heat their homes.

        Where coal is concerned, China’s consumption is enormous – they burn as much coal by themselves now as the entire world did 10-15 yrs ago and their plants are much more polluting than almost any in the West.

        In recent news, the World Bank has decided to stop financing coal plants – did they do that against the wishes of Greenpeace?

        What was being proposed to diminish soot and how much of the global production would it have reduced?

        • He’s not interested in justifying his argument, as most Internet trolls aren’t. It’s a time-honored denier tactic, insist that the people who want to do something about the problem really don’t and are just exaggerating it to make hay for the cause of putting us all into huts and taking our cars away in the name of socialist utopia.

          It’s patently ridiculous, and particularly irksome since all but uniformly those of us who care about the planet are actually arguing that the solution is better technology, not riding horses and living in caves.

        • omnologos Says:

          MorinMoss – leaving sassyitalytours’ internet based telepsychology aside, note that I haven’t spoken of “AGW proponents” in general, but of the “AGW bandwagon” and made the explicit reference to the EU commission, that has never failed to transform good green ideas into an increase in human suffering.

          we can talk until the Sun goes red giant, but if the Esteemed meet and decide helping the poor with better fuel and stoves is lower priority than throwing money at pumping CO2 in the ground, we will end up with more emissions (of soot and CO2) and more deaths.

  4. Why this obsession with keeping our heroes white as white, and our villains black as black? We are human; there is bad in the best of us and good in the worst. How are we understand why the Boston bomber did what he did without understanding who he was. Without understanding who he was, we doom ourselves to create more Boston bombers.

    What is very scary is how ordinary he was, how much he appeared to have been a success story for the American dream. Not at all who you would expect to turn into a radical bomber.

    Keeping our heroes whiter than white, we fail to realize we too can be magnificent.

    The Rolling Stone issue is a good issue all round

    • neilrieck Says:

      Tell that to the people still healing from their missing limbs, missing spouses, and missing children (and what must those people be thinking when they see this cover?). Nope, the publishers of Rolling Stone really screwed up. When you think about it, this is almost as bad as if RS would have published a cover featuring Osama bin Laden some months after the 9/11 attacks on America. Nope. It might be a freedom of the press issue to them, but my freedom of speech feels the need to criticize them on this action.

      • MorinMoss Says:

        Did I miss the outcry over the same picture being used on the front page of the New York Times on May 4th?

        Why wasn’t that highly inappropriate?


        What’s the agreed-upon moratorium on publishing images of killers?
        There are plenty of people who never healed or are still healing from the atrocities of Joseph Kony, Saddam Hussein, Moammar Qaddafi, Agosto Pinochet, Idi Amin, Tito, Ho Chi Minh, Tito, Mussolini, Stalin & Hitler.

        And these are just a few of the best known of the last century.

        I bet MacArthur and Eisenhower are despised by quite a few as well.

        Heck, the South still haven’t forgiven Sherman, Grant and Lincoln.

  5. neilrieck Says:

    “I think” the problem here is that RS is partly known for promoting bad-boys (usually artists of one kind or another) on their cover. Now we all know the world is more gray than black-and-white and many people might not have a problem with Willie Nelson (the top name on the same cover) smoking a little “mother nature” putting him somewhere in the gray. But no one (other than terrorists) would approve of treating the Boston Bomber in the same light as a musician.

    Now I must confess that I read “Rolling Stone” and am a fan of Matt Taibbi who’s investigative journalism on economic matters is top notch. But saying “it’s alright for us to publish this photo because the New York times did it” is beneath his reputation which makes me think Rolling Stone is engaging in “damage control”.

    But let me go one step further and say that The New York Times also shouldn’t have published “that photo”. Why? That photo was something the bomber used to promote himself on social web sites. PROMOTE HIMSELF!

    • MorinMoss Says:

      My opinion is that the use of the photo was appropriate.
      It’s childlike to want all bad actors to look like and talk like Charles Manson; we periodically need to be reminded of what Hannah Arendt called “the banality of evil”.

  6. Susan Anderson Says:

    One more time (I can’t imagine how I could be banned here, but will try not to use terms that catch your filter).

    Why is it necessary to continue to discuss the young man and his ego, and how people feel about it, when the important thing is that an important featured article on the Arctic, which affects us all, has lost a lot of audience?

    I saw this the instant it came out, and was deeply saddened by the end result of the arduous process of sifting the work to make this article.

  7. […] The “banned in Boston” dead-tree version of Rolling Stone is hard to find in most places, due to a wrong-headed non-controversy about the cover. But now Jeff Goodell’s story is online, in a special, first-of-its-kind-for-rollingstone media enhanced version, with several embedded videos that the Dark Snow media team produced during its stay in Sisimiut in early July. […]

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